Local News

Separated sisters reunite after 70 years apart

Posted July 23, 2014

— Reunions are a regular occurrence at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, but the one on Wednesday between the elderly woman in the wheelchair and the one holding a bouquet of flowers was decades in the making.

Deva Buttram, the woman holding the bouquet, waited nervously for her sister’s Southwest Airlines flight to arrive from Phoenix.

Deva, 70, was awaiting a sister she barely remembers.

“I have been looking for her because I knew about her,” Buttram said. “I didn’t know if she knew about me.”

It just so happened Nancy Hansen, Deva’s sister, did know about her. And Nancy was searching for her sister as well.

The siblings were separated after their mother, who abandoned the girls at a Montana boarding house, came back for Nancy but left Deva behind.

Deva was a few months old. Nancy was 1.

About 70 years later, Deva wanted to find the sister she knew she had before it was too late.

She reached out to a local newspaper reporter for help. Through his efforts, Deva found Nancy through their brother’s obituary.

They heard each other’s voices for the first time about two months ago, and had daily phone conversations since.

“I walked on clouds for about two weeks,” said Nancy, 71. “I couldn’t believe she was actually found.”

On Wednesday, an airport worker pushed Nancy to Deva, who presented her sister with the bouquet.

The women shared a lengthy, long-awaited embrace.

"Never give up. I had nobody, and now I have a whole family," Deva said.

"She's got a whopper of a family," Nancy said to laughter.

Nancy will be in Raleigh until she heads back to Phoenix on Sunday.


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  • Susan Olvera Jul 24, 2014
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    Great story! I love how authentic Ken's joy and delight is about this story. You can tell it touched him as much as it everyone else.

  • Forthe Newssite Jul 24, 2014
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    I just love a good happy story. Too bad there's not more of them these days

  • Edna Pickrell Jul 24, 2014
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    I was waiting for a niece to arrive and watched the anticipation of this moment. I feel so Blessed to have witnessed their seeing each other and the love and tears that was shared between these two precious sisters..priceless

  • Naysayer Jul 24, 2014

    That is a nice story.